Monday, May 31, 2010

Game - Where Is The Critter?

It's game time once again! Today's game is much the same as most of my other games. Only this time, the game is the lead in to a fun multi-part story with many twists and turns. In this first part of the story, I'll ask you to find the hidden critter in this picture, and it is really hiding! In the days to come, I'll reveal why it is hiding. On to the game!

There is a critter of some sort hiding in this picture somewhere. The critter could be big or small. It could be anywhere. One clue for you is that this critter is one of my favorites. It can be found if you really try. My games are always easy. And cheating is okay if you can figure out how to do it. Now on to the rules.

All you have to do is find out where the critter is and also guess what the critter might be. Then when you think you have found it, or even if you just have a guess, describe to me in the comments section below where you think the critter is hiding and then tell its identity. Make your guess even if you think someone else has already made the same one. You both may be wrong! 

This game is all just for fun. Sometimes I give an acknowledgment to the winner, but not always. It depends on my mood. I'll reveal the location of this critter tomorrow in a bigger post about the animal, along with some very fun pictures. You won't want to miss the pictures. Happy hunting!!!

Nature Center Magazine - I'm a fan of monkeys. Are you? Today we have a video of something that happened when humans influenced the habitat of one type of monkey. This one is falling down fun!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Another Chance

After nearly two years of holding a grudge, I finally gave it another chance! This nature park that I visited back then left a bad taste in my mouth. The problem happened all over water! After a few things with the water there, I didn't like the place one bit! But I've now decided that I was being unreasonable. Let me explain.

Back then I was new to so much nature. I had just begun to look for a place where I could see a few big bodies of water, other than my beloved Great Lakes. I just wanted a few pictures, that's all. I found the water at this nature park, in the form of a pretty large lake that bordered the park. But it was blocked by vegetation and more inadequate ways to view that water.

The side of the park was the only way to view the lake. All other sides were apparently bordered by very expensive residential property. I hastily, and maybe rightly, determined that the water was blocked by selfish residents that lived around it. I completely agree with the idea of property rights, but why did the public nature preserve need to be blocked from viewing the water?

On top of all of that, there was a very sad incident at this lake that was all over the news. It happened only a week after my angry trip to this park. A man who was visiting from outside the country was found drowned in the lake. Something like that really hurts when it happens so close. It made my negative feelings for this place even worse. I soon decided that this nature preserve was just a bad place that was devoid of life, even though I had some good times there.

With all of that, I began my search for other places to explore. I soon found several, some even being very close to home. One other place was even right down the street from this place, which was soon left forgotten. But a few days ago my memory came back. I decided to give this nature preserve another chance. I wanted to view it with my now more experienced eyes.

With my sight much better in tune with nature now, I found that this place was just teeming with life! The older incidents now finally began to fade into the past. I have since that old time found other sources to view watery lakes, ponds, and streams of all kinds. So this place holds different expectations for me now. And I'm realizing that my old prejudice was probably just foolishness.

I now walked through this place with a new joy, and also with the remembrance of familiar beauty. I now remembered how I really missed this place. From the stone steps you see at the top; to the boardwalk through the swamp, that seemingly goes on forever. To the solitary rest building at the back of the park. And the very large meadow where birds and insects of all kinds like to reside. It's a beautiful place to be. Maybe it can give me another chance too.

The whole park is swarming with chipmunks, even though they were very difficult to see, much less get any pictures of them. There were squirrels, groundhogs, birds, butterflies, and even evidence of deer. Many different habitats here, even if many of them contained poison ivy. A very good place indeed.

I'm very glad I went back. It will be much sooner this time when I go back there again. I have a new happiness as if I discovered something new, but familiar at the same time. Time and experience can help clear a lot of things in a mind. I'm glad it did mine.

Yesterday's post about so many baby geese does seem to have an answer! It turns out that your comments were very helpful, and always welcome. I'd especially like to thank Bill of Wild Ramblings, who once again gave a very logical and reasonable explanation to one of my questions. Read yesterday's comments to see his answer. The geese I studied last year also fit his explanation because I watched them merge their two families together. Go visit Bill's site for me.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

One Big Happy Family

I've been telling you lately that I was going to go on a search for the geese that seemingly have disappeared from my area. I've been wondering if maybe their population had greatly diminished somehow. Well, they'll definitely be back if the geese in my pictures today have anything to say about it!

What you see above is a scene with two adult Canada Geese and their young. They're swimming along very far out on a pretty good sized lake. I had to zoom in as far as my camera would go to get this close. There is a very good reason I did this. Can you see what that reason is?

Count the geese.

What you see in the pictures are two adult geese and at least twenty of their little goslings(babies). That's right, I said twenty! I have no idea how this pair of geese ended up with twenty babies, but there they are. Everything I've ever read says that one mother goose will have seven eggs. If one is damaged or stolen, then she will lay another one, always to equal seven.

I'm not sure if that's exactly true, but seven is the number of eggs that the goose I watched last year had. Go see for yourself. Even if the idea of seven isn't 100% true, how can one mother goose sit on twenty eggs at one time? Look at them. Those babies are pretty much all the same size! They were born together. And I said before, at least twenty. There may be more.

Now of course, there could be another explanation. Maybe the adults aren't one female and one male, which I consider highly unlikely. Maybe they are two females together, combining both of their full compliment of little ones together. Still, that's a little too many goslings even for two geese. So, what's the answer?

Maybe they're the goose babysitters. Maybe they're child abductors. Maybe they adopted these other babies. Maybe they collect babies from all over the world, like some of those crazy entertainers do. No matter what they've done, this is one huge goose family.

And I definitely do believe one of those two adults is a male and one is a female. I've watched geese enough to know this by the order in which they swim. And yes, those are swans in the background. I have a future post or two to talk about swans, including some excellent pictures. I think a huge family of geese like this deserve their own story though, don't you?

Tell me what you think happened here? How did this family get so big? Any theory is welcome. A rational explanation would be good, and a completely loony one would be really fun. So, what do you think?

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Majestic Bird

The bird you see in these pictures is a red-tailed hawk. I spotted him from the road as I was driving by. He was off in this very distant tree, but he was so big that he looks closer. I'm not sure what made me look in that direction, but I'm glad I did.

I have to tell you that I saw this hawk back on the same day that I saw the turkey vultures. I've seen many things since then, even today, but I didn't want this sight of a hawk to be lost to time. These big birds are some of the most majestic animals in existence.

I was able to stop the truck and take pictures of this hawk from the window. So there was no actual hiking involved this time, even though I was on a standard hiking trip that day. For those of you who don't know, Almost all of my photos are taken while I'm out hiking. Hiking is the real reason I go out.

The animals, like this red-tailed hawk, are really just a bonus on my hiking trips. I talk about the animals because they give me more varied and different things to say. My hikes aren't the kind where I would walk for several days or for many many miles. I usually only go for maybe a maximum of six miles. Most of the time I probably average two. But I still accomplish what I want, like seeing this hawk.

I watched that hawk sitting in the tree for several minutes. I did my best to get the pictures, but the distance made it difficult to get them. A camera can have a hard time focusing at far distances on an animal that is surrounded by branches. It doesn't know if I'm after the hawk or the branches. I got lucky this time.

I think the hawk knew I was there watching because he finally leaped into the sky and flew almost straight away from me. But with my trusty camera I was able to get a few good pictures of that too. There is only the shape, but I still got it.

And there he goes, that majestic red-tailed hawk. I finally lost him when he flew past the distant tree line. I'll still never forget him though because he was another very special sighting. It's not every day that I see a hawk like this one. Seeing something like this is very thrilling.

Nature Center Magazine - Today is the day for free wallpaper. Go see who contributed this one. It's a very good one. You can use a picture from just about anywhere as your desktop wallpaper, but these that we offer are kept at a very good quality just to make them right for their intended purpose.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Hungry Chipmunk

Do you wanna see one of the cutest little chipmunks ever? Well here he is! Take a good look at him! I not only have several pictures of this little guy, but I also have a new episode of Rat TV featuring this little guy. He really made my day when I found him there on those steps. Let me explain a bit.

I was walking up from the fishing platform where there is a ramp that splits into two sections. The right section leads to these stairs that lead up to the path to the back of the park I was at. When I made the small turn to go to the stairs I saw this chipmunk about two thirds of the way up.

As soon as the chipmunk saw me it of course ran and hid behind one of the steps. It had been hungrily eating something before it hid from me, so I thought maybe I would wait, just in case it might come back. I stood there very still for several minutes before I began to decide it might be time to give up.

Just before I decided to move on, the little chipmunk came back out to find its meal again. I wasn't moving so it didn't pay much attention to me. If you don't move, most animals will not believe you are a threat. They will sometimes completely ignore your presence. Some will even walk right up to you. This chipmunk almost did just that.

I watched it eat for several minutes as it filled its cheeks more and more. This is actually the first chipmunk I've ever seen that stayed long enough for me to watch it fatten its cheeks with food. It was fascinating! At times, this little guy would stuff big pieces of acorns in its mouth without much chewing at all. It would just slide them right in.

This episode of Rat TV is the first that I'm bringing you that can be watched in high definition. You can choose that in the options if your connection is fast enough. It looks good no matter which way you watch it. As usual, it starts out kind of shaky. I'm still having trouble with that. It gets better after a few seconds. This video shows the chipmunk searching back and forth for more acorns and then finding something tasty.

These last two pictures are here mostly so you get to see a nice sampling of the different poses he did. There were so many more, but they're just too many to bring you in one post.

While I was getting these pictures a squirrel came over to a tree and hung there on the trunk chattering angrily at me. I guess he didn't like me paying any attention to the chipmunk while he was there. So I took a few quick pictures of him too, and he was satisfied enough to move on.

Here is one final look at chipmunk cheeks. As long as I stood still he didn't mind my presence. I even waved my arms without him getting nervous. He soon began moving down the steps towards me. Some odd noises from somewhere else finally scared him away. I soon moved on my way as well.

Nature Center Magazine - On what is usually the day for Copas to bring us Exploring The United States, we will bring you a list of the top ten newly discovered species of 2010, including a couple of links to bigger articles detailing the same. Copas will return next week.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Deer And A Flower Bush

I was surprised by a deer that I must have surprised first! Does that sentence sound strange? I guess I need to explain this a bit. This odd incident happened kind of close to home while I was experimenting some more with my camera's macro setting.

I was standing in front of some type of shrub taking pictures of the flowers. I had been standing there for quite some time. I was using macro, super macro, and manual focus to see which one would work best for me. I had been under the mistaken impression that the camera might be somehow flawed as far as these closeup shots went, but I now know that I just need to learn a bit more. It actually works better than my old camera.

But back to what happened! After what seemed like a quiet time at the edge of the forest, I began to hear some rustling in the trees behind the shrub I was looking at. It all began rather quietly. But then as they continued, the rustling sounds picked up in volume and intensity.

Oh, by the way, these are the flowers I was looking at when all of this happened. I think the camera did just fine with the macro setting. These flowers are kind of small, and the camera was able to pick them up clearly enough. I've since fine tuned other settings to make all of my pictures come out better. These macros seem to be mostly a matter of holding the camera at the right distance.

Anyway, back to the incident with the rustling noises. I thought maybe the squirrels were kicking up their heels in that thick little forest area. The squirrels back there don't like me as much as they do in other places, so they stay well-hidden and they'll go to any length to run away.

But then just when I was getting tired of the flowers because of the sounds now becoming very distracting, a deer came bursting out of the forest! It was to my left only a short distance away. It ran across the field I was standing in, and towards the freedom of the trees on the other side.

Two things enabled me to get these pictures of it. The first thing was that I just happened to turn my camera's setting back from macro to normal view. The second was that I'm now experienced enough to have the presence of mind to react quickly enough to start taking the pictures. That's not as easy as some people might think.

When the deer finally got to the edge of that other line of trees, after only a few seconds that seemed like an eternity, it turned and looked at me. It studied me for several seconds before finally turning and disappearing into the trees. I feel bad about probably disturbing its nap, but it was an exciting event for me.

Betty Bunny Update! Today was a whole new day for my favorite little rabbit. I found her outside my door once again. But this time she was looking and acting just fine. She was hooping around with a lot of energy. She even scared a bird that happened to be in her way. A true happy ending to yesterday's story.

Nature Center Magazine - Steve from Out On The Prairie has a fun and very informative story called "What's Bugging You?".  It's about keeping away some of our least favorite wildlife. Go take a look!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Poor Betty Bunny

I've been telling you about a rabbit that I found living in my yard since last winter. I saw her paw prints in the snow several times. And when the snow melted she came out for me to see her. She would come out right outside my door as if to greet me almost every day. But when I got home today, this above was the scene I found on the lawn.

It was my wild pet. Poor Betty Bunny! NO!!! I found her laying there on the grass, her fur looked matted, and she wasn't moving! She was laying in this strange way, as if there was something that was just not right about her. I was afraid to go over to her because I figured I wasn't going to like what I found.

I'm not really sure why I took these pictures, but I felt compelled to have this all documented in some way. So many thoughts ran through my mind. What happened to her? What do I do now? Should I bury her? Please move, Betty!!! Please be alive!!!

As I got closer to her I saw that her eyes were open. That wasn't proof that she was okay, but I hoped it was something. Then as I stepped even closer something encouraging happened. Betty moved! It was only a little bit, but she has done that before.

You see, she has become very used to my presence, so she doesn't try to run from me anymore unless I walk right up to her. Most of the time she just holds her ground. This time she lifted her head alertly and looked at me! This was a very good sign, but it wasn't over yet.

I still wondered why she was laying like that. I decided to leave her alone. I didn't want to disturb her if she was sick. So I went in the house. Later I looked out the window to check on her, and I discovered that while she was still in the same spot, she had moved to lay on her other side. I was still worried.

Then a little while later I went out to look at her again, and I found her laying in a better position. She was looking better, but she still looked kind of out of it. Then she began looking around as if nothing was wrong. I had seen her laying down before, and sometimes it looked like this. I was beginning to hope that maybe she was just pulling a prank on me, or something.

After some more time I noticed that she was eating grass around her. The fact that she was eating was a very good sign. I also noticed that where she was laying was in the shade. It was a very hot day today, and I was feeling it. That thought made me begin to suspect something. Could it be?

As it got later and later, it began to cool off a bit. I went out to check on Betty another time. She was up!!! Betty looked normal!!! She had also moved from the place where she was laying before. Betty looked like she was just fine. She was alert, and she was moving well. I began to really think that Betty had just been hot before, and that was her way of cooling off.

A rabbit can do things like that right outside my door. There are no predators in the immediate area, and I don't even bother her. She feels very comfortable here. So maybe she just feels safe enough to lounge around like that. Rabbits are very nervous creatures though. They have to be.

So even though she looked okay the last time I saw her, I'm still a bit worried about Betty Bunny. Her behavior didn't seem normal, but she seemed fine later. I'm still hoping that it was just the heat. She was still ready to run from me even when I first found her like that. I hope this is a happy ending to this story. Wish Betty good luck.

Nature Center Magazine - Emma has a new Nature Site Of The Week today. She always features the best, so go take a look to see what she has for you this time.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Just Dandy

What is it you're seeing in this picture above? Well, this is my favorite wildflower, the dandelion. I've been reading a lot of very excellent posts about my favorite wildflower recently, so I finally decided that I had to share some of my own dandelion pictures.

As you read on down the post you'll notice that I have taken pictures of dandelions from several different perspectives. And I have quite a few of them too. There is more than one reason why I did this. The first reason is that, like I said, dandelions are my favorite wildflower. The second is that I've been trying to learn how to use the macro on my new camera.

The first picture just happened to look nice in the view screen of the camera while I was playing around, so I decided to take the shot like that. I have several more at various heights, but I don't think you'd exactly want me to repeat myself too much.

I actually zoomed in for these first two. No macro setting was involved in these. I like the second one above because it reminds me of a fiery sun. I still don't have macro mastered so this is the way I did it. Hey, it worked.

I'm not sure if I used macro with this one or not, but it came out pretty good. This yellow is what I like about dandelions. They can brighten up any lawn, whether the lawn owner likes it or not. I certainly do, no matter what anybody thinks.

Here's a fine example of what I'm talking about. If this was someone's lawn it would look terrible. The grass is partly brown and gray, and is growing in patches. But the dandelions fix it right up. Without them it would look dull and lifeless, but now it looks new and exciting. (I remember part of that bad line from a TV commercial.)

Did I even use the macro setting on any of these? I swear I can't remember. Maybe. Maybe not. I remember trying a few times. I do know that I've been trying. I think it's just a matter of holding the camera at the right distance. My old cheap camera did the macro and manual settings much easier. I'll keep trying to figure this out. It shouldn't be as hard as it has been, especially for a camera that is so highly rated.

Anyway, I like this mode of dandelion too. These puffballs look like some kind of alien craft. And you can blow on them to release the little seed pods. Make sure to make a wish when you do it. Hold it over your most hated neighbor's lawn when you do this so that your wish will come true. Tell 'em Ratty sent ya.

I like the name of dandelions too. Dandy Lions. I seem to remember my grandpa telling me that one. I think he had a little story to go along with it, but it was a very long time ago, so I don't remember. Maybe I'll have to make a new one up some time and put it on Rat Tales.

I always picture these big funny looking lions with big yellow dandelion manes. They're dancing around happily on the biggest lawn in the world. The old lions manes have gone snow white. I don't think it would be too wise to try and make a wish with these guys because they might just decide to blow off your mane instead. Baldy!

Come with me and you'll be in a world of pure imagination. That's because I look at everything in Wonkavision. And no, that's not because I stuff myself with chocolate. I don't even much like the stuff. It's pretty good if you freeze it first though.

Where was I? Oh, right. I was talking about dandelions. Don't these white fluff balls just seem to glow? Imagine a whole field full of them. You'll have to imagine because I don't have a picture of that yet. One day...

Dandy Lions.

Nature Center Magazine today will feature a new Cool Nature Video about a deep sea fish with a transparent head. Don't miss it!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Return Of The Squirrels

I had to do it. I really had no choice. The squirrels were beginning to get angry with me. Just look at how furiously this first squirrel's tail is moving. He was not happy at all, and that feeling was focused right at me. And who can blame them? I haven't talked about them in a very long time. I even wrote about the geese yesterday, and barely made any mention of squirrels!

Last year until they all went into hiding for the winter I wrote a post about squirrels at least once a week. Usually many more. We started out as bitter pretend adversaries, but then these feisty little creatures began to warm up to me. We've been friends ever since.

I'm not sure they understand, but it wasn't my fault that I seemed to be neglecting them. It was simply that they had not come back out of hiding from the cold of winter. I was beginning to think that they had gone the way of the geese. But I think they're now out to prove that theory very wrong. They're back... with a vengeance!

I tell you, it seems like every time I turned my camera towards another animal, a squirrel would come up and demand my attention. This wasn't just simply lurking around the edges. No. Once I began taking the pictures a squirrel would come close and start chittering loudly at me as if it was trying to get my attention.

And who was I to say no? Every single time I turned my attention to my little buddies. I was lucky that the other animals seemed to wait so patiently for me. That's something squirrels don't seem to be. Patient! But they know me well enough to know that their impatience works on me every time.

At one point though, there was something bad in the forest. The squirrels had to close ranks and prepare to defend themselves. A hawk was flying through the forest looking for some tasty brown prey. It was after these intelligent little rodents. But the squirrels sounded the alarm and chased it off.

Squirrels might seem like ordinary little rodents to some of you. But I've studied them in action. I know how intelligent they can be. I watched them once gather together to fight off a hawk that came to the forest to hunt them. They fought back as one, attacking the hawk as a group. They even sent one squirrel out as a decoy to lure the hawk down to them.

For those of you who doubt they would do this, I saw it with my own eyes. No exaggeration, no joke. These squirrels acted more like a tribe of humans than just ignorant little forest animals, even including different types of squirrels in the battle. No animal has the same intelligence as humans, but I think we humans sometimes vastly underestimate the intelligence of certain animals.

Squirrels may seem ordinary to some people. And they are definitely pests at times. But they are also some of the most interesting little creatures you could ever find. All you have to do is pay attention to them for a time. I always watch them when I'm in their forest. I probably won't write quite as many posts about them as in years past, but this is definitely the return of the squirrels.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Adventure Continues

I still haven't found them. The geese are still missing from my little world. Oh sure, I still see a few every now and then. But for the most part, the huge flocks of hundreds must have decided that they like it somewhere else just a little bit better. I know I talked about this on Tuesday already, but I really do miss them.

Last year at this time I was busy making friends with the geese. I had seen them before, but I was beginning to finally get close to them. They, and the squirrels, became a sentimental favorite of mine. Last year was the year that I was finally getting close to the animals, and really getting to know them.

I noticed then that their numbers were decreasing around here, but there were still a lot of them. And some of the geese even began to think of me as a friend. I liked when these wild Canada geese would eagerly come to me. And now I miss them so much that I went looking for them at the place where they flocked in their greatest numbers. But look what I found. Less than a dozen.

This is Heritage Park. Earlier in the year there was fake wolves put out to scare the vast numbers of geese away from here. Maybe they also noticed that it worked too well. They have since taken down the fake wolves, and a few of the geese have returned. I guess these low numbers still qualify as a genuine gaggle of geese.

This is all bittersweet for me. A few short years ago the geese used to fight and play right outside my bedroom window early every morning. They always made as much noise as they possibly could make. Now that they're gone, I'm beginning to miss all of that comical commotion. But I hated it when they used to wake me up every weekend.

Maybe this is all for the best. The geese were a fun part of my everyday adventures in years past. Now, maybe it's time to move on to new adventures. Geese can always remain as fond memories for me, and they can even make occasional reappearances, but there are new and exciting things to see today and in the future. My adventures must continue, and I'm excited to see where they might take me next.

Friday, May 21, 2010

It Came From The Sky

There I was minding my own business, taking pictures of this field and the hills in the distance. I looked for an opening in the thickly placed trees and shrubs so I could get a good picture of those hills. This time of year it gets harder to find that opening on this particular trail at Heritage Park, where I chose to hike today.

I thought I saw a few birds flying in the distance, so all of my attention was focused far away. I was thinking what a potentially beautiful scene I'd be able to share. The only problem was that the Sun wasn't quite in the right position this time of day. I was lost in these thoughts.

That's when it came right at me, from out of the sky!

It was a bird that I thought looked like a small duck. It was almost as big, but lighter in color than most. I couldn't believe what was happening! It landed at the edge of the trail right in front of me! It landed so hard that I thought maybe it had somehow fallen!

My camera was zoomed out while I was trying to see the distant birds, and in my panic I couldn't get it to zoom back in. I had to get a decent picture of this bird! The pictures I tried to get were all too close and very blurry. Meanwhile, this false duck was crawling around in the high grass in the strangest way!

The bird didn't exactly appear to be injured as I continued to watch, but this bird was no duck at all. There was something different about it. Something I'd never seen before. It appeared to be trying it's best to burrow down under the old matted grass and weeds. I never did get a good picture while watching it act so crazily.

It soon found it's way under all of those weeds and was out of sight. I thought about poking around there with a stick, until I remembered that it wouldn't be a very nice thing to do. I never touch any wildlife, or disturb it at all, if I can help it. All I had left were these blurry pictures, but what was this bird?

After I got home, I did a little research. It was hard to see, but the pictures told me just enough. The identity of this bird is an American Woodcock. If you want a better look you can click on the name to go to a very useful place to find out a lot of good information about this bird. I just hope one day I'll get some better pictures!

Nature Center Magazine today has another Free Wallpaper for you this week. This one is an excellent photo of a black swallowtail butterfly. It was contributed by Steve of Out On The Prairie. Go there to see the photo and to get the links to more of Steve's excellent work.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Peeking Into Paradise

There was a drop off of about thirty feet(9 meters) right in front of my feet. The only thing that could have stopped my fall was the thick bushes that grew on that steep slope. The bushes also blocked my view into the open area that I could barely see there in front of me. But what I saw through a small opening looked like a fantasy paradise.

At the bottom of that steep slope was nothing but flowing water. The water and the plants seemed to surround this hidden paradise. I walked to three sides of this hidden place, but I never could find a way in. This one little window was also the only place I found that I could even get a peek into this hidden Utopia.

How could I get in there? I'd like to find the way in and never come out again. This place must have everything. I can just imagine that the tree on that far island is just full of juicy delicious apples; all I can eat! My imagination makes the water fresh and clean. I would never need anything else.

This is what I imagined while I was peeking into paradise.

Nature Center Magazine today has a new article by Copas. This time he's going to take us on a tour through the state of Florida. And a great tour it will be. Florida is considered to be a paradise by a great many people too.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

How Quickly They Vanish

What you are having trouble seeing in this picture above is an Eastern Bluebird. To my surprise, this is the first time I've ever shown you one of these birds. I have some pictures from about a month before that I had big plans for. Oh well. I'll have to bring them to you another time. For now, I'll bring you my second find.

I actually went back to this particular place just to get more pictures of bluebirds. It had been the only place I ever saw any. I also saw several orioles here, but they were not in any mood for me to get any pictures. The problem is that these bluebirds didn't seem to want me around either.

I got exactly two shots of the bird in my pictures, and I'm sharing them both with you. Hey, it's an exciting thing to get pictures of any creature that seems so elusive. When birds are concerned, you can find me chasing them like a complete fool! It must be funny seeing somebody running around in circles, seemingly chasing the air.

This was the scene only a fraction of a second after I took my first picture of the bluebird. It's almost as if he knew I was taking his picture and wanted to ruin the whole thing. Honestly, I don't blame him at all. If I was a bird, I'd do the exact same thing every time. And then I'd laugh a little birdy laugh in the photographer's direction.

Still, I have to say that I like pictures of birds in flight. This bluebird is more of a blur than anything, but there he is hovering in the sky with nothing connecting him to the ground at all. To me, this is the ultimate action shot. Too bad cameras aren't a little faster. He was gone right after this. How quickly they vanish...

Nature Center Magazine - Today we have a story from Steve of Out On The Prairie, called A First Garden. His excellent story coincidentally continues our agriculture theme this week, and a little more. Go take a look.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Where Have All The Geese Gone?

Today's post has a dual purpose. But make no mistake, these two meanings mesh together very well. So let's take a look at the first part of this post with the split personality.I've been invited to play a game by VanillaSeven. I used to do games like this every time, but as Icy BC pointed out in her post of this game, I don't usually play anymore. That's mostly because I'm usually way behind on everything, but with a little bit of laziness thrown in there too. But this time I'll play. It ties in perfectly with another post I had planned.

You can find VanillaSeven's post with this game here. Read it. It's a very good one.

Here are the rules of the game:
1. Go to your photo files, select the 8th photo folder.
2. Select the 8th photo in that folder.
3. Post that photo along with the story behind it.
4. Then challenge 8 blogging friends to do the same.

Of course, any of you who have known me for awhile know that I almost always cheat at these games by never picking any specific others to continue the game. So I'll do like Poetic Shutterbug did, and invite anyone who wants to play to continue the game.

The photo above is the 8th photo in my 8th folder of photos. It's now a few years old. This is the amphitheater at Heritage Park, a nature park that I've been planning to go back to any day now. This was the day I discovered this amphitheater. It's hidden very well. They have concerts here every week in the summer.

I took this photo while I was standing on a hill that looks down on it. The hill creates a slope where people can sit and see the stage clearly. The last time I stood on this hill the grass was covered, and I really mean covered, with goose crap. Those Canada geese can really mess up a place. They used to gather here in flocks of hundreds. But now they're all gone.

I've mentioned before that the Canada geese that used to flock around here have disappeared. They used to stay here throughout the year. But last fall they all left for the winter. A very small amount have come back, but a hundred times more of them have failed to return. One of the reasons is in the picture above.

Those who run Heritage Park decided that they'd had enough of the destructive pests, the Canada geese. So they put these fake wolves in all of the favorite stomping grounds of the geese. I'd say it's worked very well. There are no geese there anymore. But what about the other places?

I'm not sure why the geese haven't come back. At my usual place, Carpenter Lake, there were 17 geese in the lake before they left. Now there are only 4 that have come back. It's all a huge mystery to me. I want my geese back!

Since I was missing the goofy antics of all the geese, I decided to do something about it. I went on a road trip to Island Lake State Recreation Area. That's where I found this guy swimming around with that duck and another goose. But even in this huge state park there were only two geese!

Where have all the geese gone?

I never found an answer to that question. But I did at least get the geese to entertain me a little bit. So I have a new episode of Rat TV, with the two Canada geese swimming towards me back to shore just so they could entertain me. Geese are such clowns! I love every one of them.

I've been asked a few questions about my camera in the last few days. I didn't respond before because I've been away a lot, so I'll answer them here. My camera is a Canon Powershot SX20 IS. It's not a DSLR, because I didn't want to have to change lenses. It has both macro and super macro. I've tried them both without zooming, and I'm still having a bit of trouble getting macro shots. I've been practicing with it at home, so I'm beginning to learn. I'll explain everything in detail once I begin to get successful macro shots with it. I'm sure it will be soon.

Nature Center Magazine is evolving quickly, with new guest contributors and new articles, so there will now sometimes be more than one article a day. Today is a new Nature Site Of The Week by Emma. Check it out to see another very good website to visit.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Baltimore Oriole

The birds are back! After only a few days of bringing you some of my other discoveries, it's back to bringing you the birds. The one I have for you today is a Baltimore Oriole. This is the first oriole I've ever had any pictures of, and I've been seeing them everywhere ever since.

I kept thinking last year that the birds I was seeing in the trees didn't quite look like robins. As you can see, this oriole does bear a passing resemblance to an American robin. They both have red or orange colored breasts. The robins breast is a rusty colored red, while this oriole has a bright orange breast.

And that's what I was seeing in the trees last year. Those birds looked too brightly colored to be robins. But I just couldn't catch up to them with my old camera, no matter how much I tried. And I just knew that they must be orioles, but that still didn't help me get my pictures.

But now I finally was able to get the pictures I wanted so bad. Well, here he is, take a good look at him! (That last line is a joke from a very old and very hilarious cartoon called "Fair Today," A Walter Lantz cartoon from 1941.) Anyway... I, uh, got the pictures of the oriole, like I said before.

This particular oriole was nice enough to stay still for me for quite some time. The only real problem was that it decided to stay very high up in a tree, almost directly above me. I dared not move away for fear of losing the bird forever. I was just glad to be able to get the pictures I have here. They're pretty good, but more angles would be helpful.

Here's another one with the camera zoomed back just a little bit. I noticed that orioles are also a little bit smaller than robins. It's just enough to be noticeable. And their habits seem to be quite a bit different. Robins are much more sociable and unafraid of humans than these birds.

I've been seeing a lot of orioles this year, but they move way too fast for me to get any pictures right now. Mostly what I've been seeing has been flashes of that bright orange streaking past from one tree to another, while I stood there trying to get pictures that I never do get.

But thanks to this unusually confident bird, I was able to get one last group of pictures. This is the best of them. It gives us a little bit better angle to look at, but he's still slightly hidden. That's okay though. I know I'll get more chances.

The last thing I want to say about these orioles right now is that these are some of the most beautiful birds I've seen so far. That bright orange together with the black is just amazing to see. I hope you all get the chance to see a bird like this for yourselves.

Nature Center Magazine - I mentioned above about a very good cartoon from 1941 by Walter Lantz, called "Fair Today". It's about a tour through a county fair, an old tradition that shows the best of livestock and agriculture once a year. The subject is mildly based upon nature, and the cartoon is great. So that's why this cartoon is this week's Cool Nature Video. You're going to love this one!